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Persistent In Prayer

This particular point about prayer that we ought always to pray and not lose heart. Here are some common principles about prayer.

Corby Stephens
Corby Stephens
10 min read
Persistent In Prayer
Photo by Peter Herrmann / Unsplash

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The following text is the raw, unedited transcript from a sermon given on Oct. 16, 2022. You can also listen to the audio. Better yet, subscribe to the podcast! :-)

We are going to spend our time talking about the gospel reading today from Luke chapter 18. Prayer is easy, isn't it? Prayer is like whatever I ask for God gives me it's no problem. And the first time I asked for God gives it to me too. Said no one ever, right, I mean I am well of course I'm thankful for for all of God's word, but this is one of a couple of parables that Jesus gives where he just plainly says what he means before he even shares the parable, he says, well the Luke tells us and he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.

We could be done right now because that's that's the point. But I do want to talk a little bit about that point without going off into too many other rabbit trails about prayer because there are many, there there could be very many. Yeah, but what about, you know, we're gonna focus on this one. This particular point about prayer that we ought always to pray and not lose heart. There are some common principles about prayer that I think no matter which facet of prayer you're talking about are true.

And I was as I was pondering them, I sort of put them into two lists of the prayer is and a prayer is not list. Because there are a lot of things prayer is and a lot of things that prayer is not and we can get them confused and as we grow in the Lord, we come to see some of these truths through experience and through teaching and various other methods.

Prayer Is Not Easy

Prayer is in fact not easy. Prayer is simply one of the things prayer is simply talking to God and that in itself is not always easy, especially if maybe you're a little miffed at God, sometimes, maybe there's something happened in your life or the life of a loved one that you think is not fair, it is not just and you don't even really want to talk to God about it.

Prayer Is Essential

And so it's not easy, but it is essential. Prayer is needed prayer. We we need to pray. One reason is because God tells us to if he is our God, if he is our Lord and he has commanded us to pray, he has commanded us to make our requests known unto him and to talk to him, then that is something we ought to do, even if it's sometimes through clenched teeth. Okay, Lord, I don't like this, but I'm gonna say anywhere he can understand that, he can, he speaks clenched teeth, that's fine.

Prayer Is Not A Formula

While prayer is commanded, prayer is not a formula, there is no one formula for prayer. What about the Lord's prayer? That's not a formula for prayer. That's an example of prayer. That is a model of prayer. In fact, uh there are different, not versions, but different examples from different rabbis around the time of Jesus of similar models of prayer. So the different rabbis re teaching about prayer. Remember Jesus himself was a rabbi, this was his teaching on prayer when you pray pray like this and he gives us this model that we will pray together thankfully later on. But it's not a formula, it's not if you say these words in this order or if you say them this loud or if you say them this quiet or any anything like that, there's no magic formula for prayer. There just isn't. Prayer is a lot of things, but it's not a formula.

Prayer Is Not Futile

Prayer is also not futile, which I think might be one of the points Jesus is getting to hear when he says we ought always to pray and not lose heart, anybody. Has anyone experienced prayer that feels futile wow. If you've been a believer more than five minutes, then the answer should be yes, that prayer can sometimes I feel very few like why am I doing this still or again or why do I even have to pray? Why would God allow this to why? Why? Why? It's okay, take a deep breath again and follow God's command his heart to pray because it's not futile.

Prayer Is Communication

Prayer is communication. That's one of the things Father Edward Leche shared about it's ended this last weekend, that prayer is of all the kinds of communication we have in this world. Prayer is a kind of communication, It is, it is to God and it is also from God. In fact I'm gonna skip ahead and say that prayer is a dialogue.

Prayer Is A Dialogue

Prayer is not simply bringing your Christmas list to Santa of things you want this year for Christmas. It is a dialogue, it is me sharing my heart with God, sharing my mind with God, but it is also listening, which one of my favorite things about the anglican way as compared to the tradition it came from is that there is built in silence in our times together not to make it awkward but to simply give us the opportunity to hear from God to stop and to listen because you may remember from the very beginning of the bible that it says and God said let there be light and God said and God said and God said to Moses and God said to Joshua and God said to David, God's kind of a talker were not always good listeners. So when we pray we do need to allow ourselves time to and to listen. And that can also be encouraged by these words to pray and not lose heart. So prayer is communication. Prayer is a dialogue.

Prayer Is Not For God, It's For You

Prayer is not for God. Now I realize that there are instances in scriptures where we see a person praying and God seems to change course. Uh I those are, I'm not just for the moment, set those aside, not that they're in conflict, but prayer is not for God God doesn't need us to pray. Guess who prayer is for me and you prayers for us. Prayer is for us to draw boldly to the throne of grace as it says in hebrews. Prayer is for us to But doesn't God already know our hearts? Yes, he does. But prayer is for us to share that with him.

I mean, remember that this is not to sound too cliche, but this is a relationship that we have individually. It's a relationship we have as a community when we come together to pray. But there is a relationship aspect and as much as I love and know my wife, she likes it when I talk to her. In fact she insists on it sometimes, but you talk to me. Ok, OK, Because I am naturally an introvert and a lot of thought happens up here, but it doesn't always come out of this little hole. But it's the same with God. Yeah, he Yes, he does know what I think, what's in my heart before I know what's in my heart, but it is for me to speak to him, it doesn't change him necessarily, but it does change me. Prayer is for you. Prayer changes you.

Prayer Changes Us

Prayer changes me. One of the rabbit holes we're not going to go down is about when a couple of times in scripture, we're told that we we don't receive because we ask for the wrong thing. I'm not gonna go through a list of what the right things are and the wrong things are. But as we pray, as we let our heart known to God be known to God. And he we listen, he lets his heart be known to us. Our prayer changes. We begin to learn what the right things are to ask for. That is one of the ways in which prayer changes us. So while the thing we might have been asking for is a good and right thing, maybe it's not the thing the Lord wants for us, Maybe he wants to teach us something, maybe he wants to change us. You ever prayed for somebody else to change only to discover you're the one who needs to change. I hate that. What is that? God fix them? I'm gonna fix you through their Brokenness. Come on. But that's what he does.

And again, prayer is not a monologue. It is, it is a dialogue that we ought always to pray and not lose heart. , one of the prayers that I have come to really love and of course I didn't grab, There's a red book in the Book of common Prayer. Uh, I have come to really love the morning office. This is, it's not the first time, but one of the first times that I've experienced this as a group. And one of the things I like to do in my own practice at home is there is a particular prayer that I came across that I printed and I put it on uh right above my desk so that as I'm going through my office.

And this particular point comes that will come later on for us today. I pray this prayer. So this is one of my own personal don't lose heart and it's for my kids. And if you have anyone in your life who needs to come back to or come to the Lord for the first time, This can be your prayer to you. Don't have to turn there. Just you might want to make a note. It's prayer number 64 in the back on page 665. It's for the unrepentant and I just, it's such a beautifully written prayer that I'm going to read it and pray it again right now it says merciful God.

You desire not the death of sinners, but rather that they should turn to you and live and through your only son you have revealed yourself as the God who pardons iniquity, have mercy on the unrepentant and those who do not believe especially. And I name the family members who I really want to come back awaken in them. Your word and your holy spirit, a deep sense of their sinfulness and peril take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart and contempt of your word, grant them to know and feel that there is no other name under heaven given among men by which they must be saved, but only the name of the Lord, Jesus christ and so bring them home and nber them among your Children, that they may be yours forever through Jesus christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the holy spirit one god world without end.

Man I love that prayer and it's one of my pray and it is, can become easy to lose heart depending on what happened the night before because we all live together again and we love living all together most of the time again. But that that is one of them, this this idea of always praying and not losing heart, you might be familiar with another time Jesus was teaching about prayer and he says ask, he says seek, he says knock and as you may or may not be aware of of a worse english, but a better meaning for those words might be asking seeking knocking, he's not saying ask once and it shall be given to you, he's saying ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking knock and keep on knocking and the door will be open to you.

It's not a one time thing, it's an ongoing thing. This is not a new idea from our Lord. So he, the author Luke ST Luke gives us this intro to this passage and it makes a really weird comparison and it's it's really not that weird because a lot of Jesus parables, I like to think of them working like this, we flawed han beings can sometimes take a concept and take it to uh an extremely tight extreme and understanding or an extremely loose understanding. In fact a lot of what Jesus dealt with in terms of the Pharisees and the statue sees while they were all jews had different extreme beliefs and when Jesus says something extreme, like you must hate your father and mother or anything, that's like whoa, that's kind of crazy talk, he's trying to pull somebody back to the middle, he's trying to pull us back to this middle point where the truth is, I think it's the truth both in and of itself, but it's also more able to be lived out, so when he talks about a judge who does not fear God or people like why is Jesus comparing God to somebody like that is to get our attention, it's so that Jesus will often say if this is true of this flawed han in my example, how much more is it true of your father in heaven?

So Jesus is saying, here's this judge who is supposed to love God and love people actually hates God, it does not fear people, he's like well if that's true, if this judge is gonna be this way and eventually grant prayer, how much more does your father in heaven wanna answer your prayer and he uses the example of a widow. Now in these times, a person who was a widow, it meant that they had no means of their own in this society, families lived together their entire lives like so in my situation it would be I take care of my kids and I take care of my parents and eventually I become the person of that age and my kids better take care of me because I don't have any retirement, I'm in trouble.

But that the idea is that this widow did not have anything like that, anyone to take care of her. So here she is, pestering this unjust judge continually so that she gets justice, probably some money that she is owed from her enemy. She's pleading for her income, she's pleading for something to be sustained with because she has nothing. That's sort of the picture that they would have understood at the time and if we are like this widow and we does God want us to pester him. I think maybe sometimes remember we're like we're little kids where I'm probably the most immature person in the room, but we are like little Children compared to God and and sometimes I have to go daddy, daddy, daddy, dad, dad, Abba, father, dad, God put you and he's like, okay, yes, what I love you, I wanted you to do that come here, I think sometimes he's playful like that and wants it wants us to focus our attention on him repeatedly because anybody else distracted by stuff in life?

I think sometimes he's like, I'm gonna I need you to focus on me, so I'm gonna have you just call on me a lot and I'm listening, but you will have my attention. That's again, not for him, it's for us to be able to focus on him. So as we look at this passage and as we have talked about what prayer is and prayer isn't, and as we we as a church into this season of looking for a new priest, I think these words are especially poignant that we ought always to pray and not lose heart.



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